Iraq: Christian leader says Muslims must condemn ISIS

Patriarch Louis Sako I

Patriarch Louis Sako I

The leaders of Iraq's Catholics has called on "the moderate majority of Muslims" to condemn attacks on Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS. Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Iraq, made the plea at an interfaith conference organised by the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious Dialogue in Vienna, Austria.

Patriarch Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, expressed concern that Muslim leaders had not strongly spoken out against attacks carried out "in the name of the Islamic religion" which targeted Christians, Yazidis, Shi'a Muslims and others.

In a copy of the message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, he said: "It is quite shocking to see the insufficiency of the official Islamic community that only denounced these acts by shy and helpless statements, showing the absence of a real role in raising the awareness of the public about the impending danger of ISIS in the name of religion."

The patriarch went on to call on Muslim scholars to refute ISIS's arguments from Islamic law and denounce their actions.

"Silence doesn't befit you because ISIS and their followers will direct more distortionary strikes on Islam. It's dangerous to give them that chance because people will think that Islam is a threat to world peace."

Stressing that the response to ISIS had to come from within Islam, the Patriarch said: "I believe, you were equally shocked as we were by the barbaric acts that swept through the towns of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain against the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities who were uprooted empty-handed from their homes and villages overnight, heading towards 'an unknown future' struck by fear and terror."

The Chaldean Patriarch went on to describe the problems faced by the 120,000 Christians who had been forced to flee their homes as ISIS advanced. He said: "We, as minorities without protection or care, are targeted, our children are threatened and kidnapped, our homes were robbed or looted publicly as if it is legitimate (Halal). Our families were living in their own homes with dignity and pride, today they live homeless in several towns and villages, in tents or in caravans or in a room which is provided rent-free from the Church."

Aid to the Church in Need has been among the charities backing the Iraqi bishops support for displaced families.

A three million pound package announced by the charity last month includes food for displaced people reliant on Church help in Erbil and accommodation in Erbil and Dohuk for internal-refugee families.

Stressing the need to respond to the suffering of those Christian who had been driven out of their homes, the Patriarch said: "There is a superior law (Shari'a) of love and mercy engraved in the human heart. This superior law demands compassion and charity for every helpless father with a hungry infant in his arms and mercy for every human fellow in pain."

The head of the Chaldean Church reminded hearers of the long history of the Church in Iraq, saying: "Do not forget that Christians are natives in this land, and they have contributed a lot to Arab culture."

In conclusion Patriarch Sako said: "We look forward to the day when Muslims announce officially to themselves and to those who are persecuted that attacking innocent peoples Muslims or Christians, believers or not is against religion and against God the Almighty who is the only one who will judge every human beings and recompense them with justice."

The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious Dialogue's conference on 'United against violence in the name of religion' took place between on the 18th and 19th November and looked at religious and cultural diversity in Iraq and Syria. It was attended by 200 delegates, including both Muslims and Christians.

Source: ACN

Tags: Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Iraq, Austria, Chaldean Catholic Church, ISIS, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious Dialogue, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch Sako, Vienna

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